DECLINE OF SAFAVI DYNASTY 303 posts that should have been held by the great nobles, and the whole nation was thereby dangerously weakened. The right of sanctuary was extended to all colleges, whose occupants thus became entitled to protect murderers, a most dangerous privilege ; and the monarch himself re- fused to order the death penalty. Peace was enjoyed ; but, sunk in this, the nation did not realize that it was only the lull before the storm, and when the storm broke their leaders were not capable of coping with it. The Embassies of Peter the Great^ A.D. 1708 and 1715. —In A.H. 1120 (1708) Peter the Great despatched an embassy to the Court at Isfahan, headed by an Armenian named Israel OriL This adventurer was accompanied by a train of 700 followers, many of whom were merchants who took advantage of the opportunity to escape customs dues. The size of the embassy and the aggressive character of the Tsar aroused much alarm at Isfahan, and a rumour was circulated that it was intended to seize Georgia and Armenia. The embassy, however, was received with all hqnour in spite of its semi-com- mercial character. Shah Husayn being unable to treat the envoys of Peter as his ancestor had treated those of Alexis. Seven years later another embassy reached Persia, under the talented Artemii Volinski, and, as will appear in a future chapter, Peter the Great was evidently paving the way for action of a distinctly aggres- sive character. The Failure in the Persian Gulf.—In the Persian Gulf the position of Persia was unsatisfactory and weak. Sultan bin Sayf II., according to the Oman history, "made war on the enemy by sea and land and encountered the Persians in many places. . . . He also attacked and took al-Bahrein." * The Persians were helpless without a fleet, and appealed to the Portuguese, who agreed to render assistance. The Portuguese, however, were in a very different position from that which they occupied while Maskat was in their possession, and on attempting to sail up the Gulf they were attacked and defeated by the fleet 1 The Imams of Oman, p. 93. Bahrein is the island in this case, and not the province.